Three Days or Three Years?







Meng Try Ear


In Cambodia, during the rice season and during the New Year’s celebration, it is usually scorching hot.  However during the rice season this year, the weather has transformed from one that is scorching hot to one that has brought continuous heavy rain.  Even though the weather has changed, my memories about the events that passed during this rice season in the decade of 1970, has not altered with the weather.  The rice season continues to clearly remind me of the events that developed on 17 April 1975, because they are the most horrible and dark events. This was also the day of birth for the Democratic Kampuchea regime. 


17 April 1975 is the day the Khmer Rouge regime began and gained victory over nearly 2 million people.  More than this, it was the day the Khmer Rouge began to deceive the people of Cambodia, like my family, and told them to leave their homes and go to the rural areas for three days in order to avoid the bombing of the Americans.  After they achieved victory over the republic that was led by Field Marshal Lon Nol on 17 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge announced on the microphone for the people who lived in the city to leave Phnom Penh within 24 hours.  The announcement they made along the houses intermingled with the blasting sound of gunshots. On this day, my family gathered our clothes, our belongings, and many bags of rice so that we could leave the house and head for Koh Thom District in Kandal Province, which is my father’s native district. 


            There were many members in my family.  I was the youngest child.  I was only about ten months old.  In the family there were my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, and my parents.  We gathered and prepared all kinds of things so that we could quickly evacuate and avoid any terrible events that could occur.  We were afraid of them-- the “Khmer Rouge.”  However, we could not escape.  Problems still arose because we had to take longer in our evacuation. 


My grandfather was not willing to leave the house.  He said that he was already too old.  He wanted to stay home because he was afraid he would lose all of his belongings in the house.  We all sat down so we could explain and convince him to follow us.  But my grandfather continued to retain his position.  The time we took in leaving forced us to encounter events that ought to make one shudder.  At that time, three young Khmer Rouge soldiers entered our house and asked us why we had not yet left our house.  We were all so terrified our faces became pale.  The young soldiers looked like they had never entered the city before.  Their skin was black and they had bullets and guns wrapped around their bodies.  Because of continuous threats from the Khmer Rouge, my grandfather finally agreed to leave the house and journey to Koh Thom District, Kandal Province. 


It was only about 60 kilometers from Phnom Penh to Koh Thom District, but it took us a long time to get there, because the roads were crowded with people, young and old, men and women.  The sound of old people crying was like the sound of young children crying.  No matter what, we had to continue our journey according to the command of the Party.  Along the journey, my family encountered many difficulties because there were many of us.  It was also hard because my grandparents were very old.  But more than this, my parents had to take turns holding me among the throng of people and amidst the scorching heat.  My parents were afraid because my body was beginning to heat up.  They were so scared they decided to speed up the journey and asked others to help us reach Koh Thom District first, so they could find a way to care and find medicine for me.  My parents told their brothers and sisters and grandparents they had to travel to Koh Thom District first and that they should meet us there.  We would arrive their first and wait for them.


            As my parents waited for their family to arrive after they reached Koh Thom District, they became hopeless and were filled with worry and concern. The separation of my family began at this time.  After that day, my grandparents and uncles and aunts decided not to continue their journey to Koh Thom District, because the journey was too difficult.  There were too many people, my grandparents were too old, and they had too many things to carry.  They also thought that they only needed to leave for three days.  Therefore, they didn’t need to travel very far.  It would make it too difficult to return to Phnom Penh.  Because they thought this way, they decided to stay in another village around Tuk Vil in Svay Choor Village for a short while, so they could relieve their exhaustion and make it easier for them to return to Phnom Penh.  This temporary rest of my aunts and uncles and grandparents in Koh Kael, Tuk Vil slowly turned into more than three years. 


Within this period the members of my family were also separated from each other.  This separation filled us with worry and continuous doubt whether our relatives were unaware of what had developed.  We wondered what kind of problems they encountered.  What kind of peace or suffering did they have to endure?  No one could answer the above questions.  For three years, my mother and father lived under a state of desperation and apprehension.  It is fortunate that the answers were provided while we were separated. 


The long period of waiting and hopelessness ended after the victory on 7 January 1979 and as my grandparents began their journey from Tuk Vil to Koh Thom District.  The expected arrival of my aunts and uncles and grandparents ended when they and my parents met each other as they were destined and as planned.  But this anxious and worrisome wait covered a period of more than three years.  More than this, two of my uncles died and were unable to return and reunite with us in the way we had parted from each other.  No matter what, this time of reunification was the answer each one of us had been waiting for.  All of us were happy and filled with great joy when we met each other once more.  But we did not laugh with pleasure.  Instead we cried like children who had lost many hours of life.  We talked and asked each other about many different reasons.  Sometimes tears flowed.  Sometimes we could hardly believe this day had arrived and that we would have a day in which we could meet and sit and eat and talk in this way.  Honestly, the separation that my family and the family of others had to endure that lasted for over three years, developed through the trick of the Khmer Rouge who promised we would only have to leave for three days.








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Ten Years of Independently Searching for the Truth: 1997-2007


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